Employment Trends Logistics

18-year-olds Going OTR: Are They Ready? Are You?

Written by Miranda Pennington

The demands on the trucking industry are increasing every year—many companies are running at full capacity with daily shipments in need of experienced, licensed CDLs to pull their weight. Might the 18-20 year old set offer the potential to fulfill urgent delivery schedules?

While most states require drivers to be 21 to acquire their commercial driver’s licenses, some do allow 18-20 year olds to take regional trucking jobs. But they can’t cross state lines, and there’s a frustrating lag between graduating from high school, getting your CDL, and being eligible to take most jobs in the industry. Many young drivers move on to careers that are more readily available, which means the industry is missing out.

An Argument Against

One of the best tools for handling stressful job situations is maturity and experience—a teenager fresh out of high school probably hasn’t had to bounce back from so much as a fender-bender. Trucking requires the utmost professionalism and responsibility. Most teenagers make inadequate interns, but should we really trust them on the road?

Brain Development in Progress: Both a Pro and a Con

Maybe their reflexes are slightly sharper and they need less sleep, but the human brain continues to develop until age 25! Teens have underdeveloped frontal lobe, which is where impulse control, memory, attention, and consciousness are stored. On the flip side, they have a great capacity for learning, and by the time they’ve grown into full maturity as drivers, their skills will be ingrained.

Plan for the Future

While executives, dispatchers, and company owners may feel its in their best interests to get young drivers on the road as soon as possible, in the interests of safety and performance, more training measures should be developed before it becomes a viable industry-wide goal. Innovations like semi-automated trucking might help alleviate the risks of less-experienced young drivers (or benefit from their likely life-long fluency with new technology), and ride-along training programs may help get the younger workforce up to speed faster and safer.

About the author

Miranda Pennington

Miranda K. Pennington is a freelance writer and editor whose work has appeared on The Toast, The American Scholar, and the Ploughshares Writing Blog. She currently teaches creative nonfiction for Uptown Stories, a Morningside Heights nonprofit organization. She has an MFA from Columbia University, where she has also taught in the University Writing program and consulted in the Writing Center.